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Tuesday, 4 March 1980
Page: 479

Senator CHIPP (VICTORIA) - My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, a member of the Cabinet. Is it true that the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, made certain statements to two visiting American newspaper executives, Mr William Randolph Hearst and Mr Kingsbury Smith, national editor of the Hearst newspapers, which were published in those American papers on 26 February and reported in the Melbourne Age of 3 March? Did the Prime Minister state or imply to those two gentlemen that he considered any military activity in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea to come within the meaning of the ANZUS Treaty and that our military cooperation would be, to quote the Prime Minister, absolute? If so, does this mean that he has committed Australia to join the United States in some or any military action in those regions? If the Prime Minister has decided on such a vital and far-reaching re-interpretation of the ANZUS Treaty, why has the Australian Parliament not been informed? Was the Minister at any Cabinet meeting where this re-interpretation of ANZUS was discussed or introduced by the Prime Minister?

Senator CARRICK - As to the last question, no-one would know better than Senator Chipp that what happens inside Cabinet is not discussed and not responded to in Parliament. The rest of the questions are appropriately ones to which the Prime Minister must respond, if he so desires. I will refer them to him.

Senator CHIPP - I ask a supplementary question. I am disappointed that Senator Carrick should take so lightly a question containing such a heavy concept. This is not just a point-scoring exercise. This is about a statement in the Melbourne Age that the Prime Minister did reinterpret the ANZUS Treaty to include the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. Will the Minister do better than he did before and ask the Prime Minister to answer those two specific questions and will the Minister report back to the Senate so that the Senate may debate the issue if there is any substance to the story?

Senator CARRICK -I certainly did not take the question lightly. As to the four questions concerning the Prime Minister, I said that I would direct them to him and seek his response. I will so do. If the Prime Minister gives a response that I can present to the Senate, I shall be very happy to do so.

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